It's no secret the Ravens have had a rougher go since confetti fell on their shoulders in New Orleans in February 2013. Several metrics illustrate the trend.
They're 26-29 in regular-season games since their Super Bowl triumph. They're 1-5 against the Cincinnati Bengals. They've made the playoffs once in three years after qualifying in each of John Harbaugh's first five seasons as the team's head coach.
But tougher times have included one saving grace: The Ravens have dominated their chief rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Again, several metrics illustrate the trend. Since winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens have won five of seven games against Pittsburgh, including the last three in a row. They've won in the postseason, in the regular season, with three different offensive coordinators, with two different quarterbacks, in daylight, in prime time, in both cities, before the bye, late in the season … every conceivable way, basically.
They haven't just won, either; they've won in ways that gave Baltimore fans reasons to hoot. In 2013, Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin drew a $100,000 fine for edging too close to the field as the Ravens' Jacoby Jones raced past him with a kickoff return. In 2014, the Ravens knocked the Steelers out of the postseason – in Pittsburgh, no less. In 2015, near the end of the Ravens' most dismal season under Harbaugh, they won with Ryan Mallett at quarterback instead of Joe Flacco and almost (but not quite) knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs.
The Steelers have gotten in a few licks, too, including a 20-point prime-time walloping in Pittsburgh in early November 2014. But that's the last time the Steelers won over the Ravens … 24 months ago.
If I didn't know better, I'd say the football gods were playing a cruel joke on the Ravens. For many years, what the Ravens wanted more than anything in the world was an upper hand over Pittsburgh. The rivalry was their litmus test, their idea of a true measurement of where they stood in the NFL. They admired Pittsburgh, admitted they patterned themselves after Pittsburgh. An upper hand would speak volumes. Now that they've had it, though, they're struggling to maintain their other trappings of success.
Is it frustrating? No doubt. But if the glee engineered by last year's Mallett-led win is any indication, it's not THAT frustrating.
The Ravens' recent dominance guarantees nothing going forward, of course. Believe me, as they ride a four-game losing streak into Sunday's game against Pittsburgh at M&T Bank Stadium, their only concern is this year.
Sure, it would be sweet if they could mine their recent success against Pittsburgh for deep, dark secrets that could help kick-start their offense, which has generated just 10 touchdowns in seven games so far this season, and also help them keep Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger under wraps. (I'm with Terrell Suggs on the subject of Ben, by the way. There was never any doubt that he'd play.)
But I'm guessing no such deep, dark secrets exist. There's no Steeler-x mojo juice for the Ravens to pull out and squirt at their rivals Sunday. They haven't figured out Pittsburgh. The reality is the Steelers are 33-22 in regular-season games since the Ravens won the Super Bowl, so they've been markedly better overall, just not when they play Baltimore. It's pretty much impossible to explain. It just … is.
The Ravens' goal is to continue their success against Pittsburgh and place it in a happier context, i.e., beat the Steelers AND get back to beating other teams more consistently, especially Cincinnati. I guess you could call that having your cake and eating it too.
Honestly, the Ravens just need a win, period, after failing to register one since Sept. 25. But the fact that they're playing Pittsburgh Sunday adds extra meaning. A win would elevate them to first place in the AFC North, while a loss would leave them in third, two games out. That's quite a difference.
If they do, in fact, have some Steeler-x mojo juice stashed somewhere, I'd say it's time to break it out.